Thousands oppose Chigwell Row girlguiding campsite closure
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More than 11,000 people have signed a petition opposing the closure of Chigwell Row girlguiding campsite.
The action comes after Girlguiding London and South East Region (LaSER) decided it would be releasing its lease on the site with immediate effect, alongside the region's other campsite, Cudham Shaws in Kent.
A spokesperson said it was not sustainable to subsidise the running of the sites.
They added that Covid has had a significant financial impact on the charity and that the two sites were making a combined £150,000 yearly loss before the pandemic.
But thousands of people have backed a petition, set up by Emily Lack, which calls for the closures to be stopped.
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Emily wrote: "This announcement came with no warning, no consultation with the members who fund Girlguiding LaSER and with no suggestion of alternative options.
"With green space in London becoming ever scarcer, these campsites provide vital opportunities for our young members across all socioeconomic backgrounds to enjoy the great outdoors."
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The move to close Chigwell Row was also criticised by Romford's divisional girlguiding commissioner, Rosemary Jeffery.
She said the campsite has been used by thousands of girls for at least 60 years, and called it a safe venue for camping and other activities such as climbing and orienteering.
"Girls in Romford could easily access Chigwell so the loss will have a big impact on how easily we can try out adventurous activities at a reasonable cost so that nobody is excluded for financial reasons.
"We would very much like to keep this site open, for the use not just of guiding but also the many other groups and schools that have enjoyed it for so many years.
"We are hoping Girlguiding LaSER will do its best to recognise its value and change its decision."
The Girlguiding LaSER spokesperson said: “We understand and are sorry that this announcement has caused upset to many local people, from staff who live and work at the sites, to those guiding members who have had long associations with the campsites.
"It is extremely regretful that we are in this position.
"We have support in place for members with existing bookings and will be providing details for suggested nearby campsites as an alternative.
"It is our priority that we continue to ensure girls and young women have access to Girlguiding’s adventures and new experiences."